Before anything else, it’s a bit delayed but massive congratulations to New Theatre’s success at the Sydney Theatre Awards. To the team behind Stupid Fucking Bird, Annie Stafford, the other nominees and the theatre itself, SOYP is proud. I’m especially proud of those team members who also read this blog. Everyone worked hard, but because you’re my readers and I’m allowed to be biased, you’re the real MVPs.
In addition to this, I also want to congratulate the team of My Night With Reg for an enthralling, incredibly funny, and engaging performance.
There’s a surprisingly high level of adaptability within Kevin Elyot’s 25-year-old script that allows it to sit comfortably in the highly different social landscape we’re now in. Even though the gay sextet (pun completely intended) that comprise the show’s cast can be hard to remember by name if one isn’t paying close attention, from the quiet, reserved Guy (John-Paul Santucci) to the charming and chiselled John (a clean-shaven James Gordon) and even the larger-than-life flamboyant (or, if you live in Newtown, the regularly-seen-in-life flamboyant) Daniel (Steven Ljubovic), there’s an emotional depth within each character that makes them all equally intriguing on different levels nonetheless. In the living room of Guy’s apartment, where they all go about discussing their respective pasts, futures, and individual experiences with the deific Reg (I’ll leave you to guess what his godly ability is and where the source of its power is located), whom the audience never sees, there’s experiences and heartbreaks we can all relate to on some level, regardless of sexual orientation.
Experiences and heartbreaks that are brought to life by the cast’s immensely strong ensemble work – the chemistry between all those on stage is the real highlight of the show, allowing us to truly believe their emotions often more so than some of the script’s monologues. It’s so hard to pick one dynamic duo, whether it be the young, hopeful Eric (Michael Brindley) with his pseudo-daddy figure John or the chinstrapped Eric Stonestreet/Australian-beer-ad-bloke combination of Bernie (Nick Curnow) and Benny (Steve Corner), that I’ll make the job easy for myself and simply say that they all stand out. With only one real ego clash (between John and Daniel), we’re given enough difference between characters to allow the actors to work well together. On an individual level, however, there are times when these characters can come across a bit contrived. Santucci’s Guy and Curnow’s Bernie, by virtue of their more sensitive natures, can sometimes stick out like a sore thumb; this was the case in one of Bernie’s monologues directed at the more brusque Benny, which lacked enough internalised desperation to truly express the frustration Bernie feels. Guy’s careful selection of words and calculated movements seemed to drag just a bit behind the other characters at times, slowing the fast-paced play at moments that didn’t always require such a sudden shift of pace. That being said, Brindley’s intricate embodiment of Eric, as well as his mastery of the Birmingham accent, makes him a joy to watch and hear. He holds his own alongside Corner, the two undoubtedly the pick of the cast when it comes to individual performances.
On a side note, it would be remiss of me not to mention the inclusion of rain just visible to the upper right side of the set, courtesy Set Designer Tom Bannerman; both for its symbolic purpose, but also because it reminded me of that rain-mirror-thing from The Room. Also, if Costume Designer Sallyanne Facer can tell me where she sourced Daniel’s and Bernie’s wardrobe, that would be much appreciated – I felt under-dressed in the face of such style (though not as underdressed as Gordon and Brindley likely felt in their brief but rather unexpected nude scene, so maybe I shouldn’t complain).
Ultimately, it’s good to see Alice Livingstone back in the director’s chair since last year’s The Elements of an Offence, and even better to see that being the director’s chair of another brilliant New Theatre production. Here’s to what I hope is yet another good sign for the year to come.